Monday, September 30, 2013

Planning SEO for the Holiday - with humanity Engine Watch online offers a set of solid tips that may be of value to those new to the Internet and marketing.

 First off, people search for holiday bargains, deals and gifts. And secondly, if you want to get in front of those holiday shoppers, you should have specific pages for them to find in the search engine.

 You're going to need a plan around the holiday calendar - early October for Haloween promotions, early November for Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the last day you can offer free shipping for holiday delivery, post holiday cleanup sales and more.

Now, you know when you're going to offer what - but how to get it in front of the shopper? Use the right keywords. Drill into Google Keywords - Google Trends and Google AdWords Keyword Research Tool are invaluable sourcing for brainstorming keyword lists and uncovering potential new target terms for holiday 2013 optimization. Find terms that will help educate shoppers about your offers and promotions. Be darn sure that the keywords you're including on your page are reflected in the page content. If you're offering 'secret santa' gifts in your keywords, you should have relevant, targeted content about secret santa gifts you offer. The big search engines will penalize you if you're spammy in your keywords, using words unrelated to your page content. Your customers will also punish you, dropping you from their consideration and mindshare if they click through and find no related content.

Beyond your keywords, you should make sure your page titles, Open Graph titles and body text all reflect the search terms you're keying in on for the holiday season. Don't be a dweeb though; this is overkill and reflects poorly on the site. Keyword loading may get search hits, but between the typos (foe?) and the spammy title, you're not going to be generating any long term or quality customers.

Search engines take some time to crawl and index your pages; pre-publishing landing pages with some good textual descriptions and hints about what's coming is handy to give the crawlers something to latch onto. Use social sharing too, so your visitors can share the sweet upcoming deal with their networks.

Most importantly though; remember not to burn your goodwill and customer sentiment on oneshot marketing efforts. Seth Godin phrases it best: "In the connection economy, though, the thoughtful, patient, mature and modern approach wins out. Because connection is built on trust and generosity, not on snark and short-term wins." It takes years to build a reputation and high search engine rank. And a couple thoughtless decisions to ruin it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Social Sharing - setting up your page

OG social sharing:
a mimeographed self-help file
Social Sharing has been going on for a long time - first, people would send around typewritten, mimeographed jokes, lists, or other neat stuff. Next came the digital world of forwarded chain emails. Then the web, where you could copy and past the URL to a site and either link to it on your home page, or send it by email. Now, social sharing has become embedded into your everyday life. Everyone has seen this: A block of icons we all now know as 'share this page to Facebook, Twitter, email or Google Plus'. Click the button and by magic it's posted on your newsfeed or wall! But how does it work? Unlike magnets, there's no real magic there, just some basic page coding tools.
First, you need to be sure your page is ready to be read by a machine. That means you need a good title in your 'title' tag, proper HTML that mostly validates and maybe a few images on the page that can represent what you are talking about. If you want to get fancy, you can add a couple more tags to more accurately describe your page to Facebook and Google Plus. Those tags are called 'Open Graph Tags'. At the least, you can put a Title, Description and Image for your page up in the head of your page.   of your page. That's as easy as typing the 'title' tag correctly - just key in:

There are five key properties you'll enter in a 'meta' tag:

  • og:type
  • og:url
  • og:title
  • og:image and 
  • og:description

Usually, you are sharing a website page, so that's the type. The url is the absolute URL to this page; useful if you use dynamic navigation or other stuff. It can be ignored though for static websites. Title is pretty self explanatory. The image is the thumbnail shown on the left of the link in the Facebook timeline or Google Plus post. If you leave out the 'description' tag, you end up with the facebook crawler picking some snippet of text from the top third of your webpage. In a lot of modern dynamic websites, that's not really what you want to display to your visitors when they see a link to your site on Facebook or Google Plus.

This is the foundation to having a good, sharable page across all modern social networks, and it sets your page up for being part of the new, wider social graph that Facebook and Google are pulling together to define the new web.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Top Ten List of Questions for a Business Analyst

A long time ago, I was asked what my 'rubric' or list of questions were for my new job as a Business Analyst. I didn't have a clear answer. "It Depends" wasn't really a good answer.
Well, I've finally found someone smarter than me that has that list of questions. Just check out:
Excellent groundwork questions that can be used and adapted to any situation as we build and define projects and programs, starting with "Be Prepared" and continuing through leading your customer through iterative designs for how they want the solution to work. Delivering quality work depends on getting the solution well defined at the beginning. 'Misses' in requirements lead to rework, defects and less than optimal customer solutions.

Anything you'd add to the list that isn't domain specific?

Monday, September 16, 2013

United Way?

Spent the better part of the morning writing up a script for a couple dozen team members to use in making personal contacts across the organization asking for donations tot he United Way.  Yup, it's that time again - the United Way is the big charity that my company has supported for years.

I donate every year; they directly support several local initiatives including the Boy Scouts of America and the Heart of America council, that I am pretty passionate about.

But I've never figured out the motivator for the higher level team to drive such passion around the United Way campaign.  They don't get paid cash for their work with United Way; the exposure and networking doesn't seem that important. Is it just the 'in' thing to do in Oak Row for the executives?

One of the interesting things I had to do in composing the script was build a set of answers to overcome objections.  Really, I've only heard two - charities are scams (United Way only keeps about 10%) and 'I already donate to xyx'.

Do you donate to United Way?  Why?  Why not? What do you think?

Buff and Polish

New owners over to the Far East, and so I've been going through what I should do to ensure I 'best contribute to shareholder value' - in other words, how do I keep my job?

Figure a couple things will help:

  • Show up more often.  We get a lot of location freedom to work from anywhere.  But oldschool face to face never hurts people to remember what you do and why you are there.
  • Clean up a bit.  Get the hair cut monthly.  Hit the thrift store for some wool blend stuff and cash in the gift cards for a couple more button down shirts.
  • Self promote.  I've started an internal public blog about tools, technologies and stuff inside the company; I'll copy-post those out here too.  May help build internal and external reputation as someone with a clue.
  • And of course, the basics - deliver results, drive operational efficiency, act with integrity, the whole 'Seven Imperatives' thing.